It's clear that High Voltage Software are excited about the ability of The Conduit, their upcoming first-person shooter geared for hardcore gamers, to ratchet the Wii's technology several notches past what it's previously pulled off.
At a recent hands-on demo, the game's art director, Matt Corso, was dropping all kinds of techie jargon into my tape recorder. But I can't blame him; the game looks great, sporting draw-distances, bump-mapping, lighting, shadowing and particle effects that wouldn't look out of place on the Playstation 3 or Xbox 360.
All that graphical panache was in full force while I was playing through a portion of the aliens-invade-Washington, D.C. title earlier this week.
I found myself treading a crowded urban street as the mysterious Mr. Ford, who works for the equally shadowy Trust, effortlessly shooting insect-like enemy "Drudge" and blowing up vehicles, all while taking in the pretty visual presentation.
Most impressive, especially for the Wii, were the explosions, which filled the screen in fiery detail on more than one occasion. But even tiny touches, like the realistic glare off the front of a newspaper vending machine, stand-out on the Wii. Also, the cool reload animations—an important part of any shooter—had me restocking my arsenal just to check it out again and again.
Just as impressive as the art direction, were the solid controls; I haven't felt this comfortable pointing the remote like a gun since strapping on Samus' arm canon in Metroid Prime 3: Corruption. Character movement with the nunchuck also felt fluid, aiming was spot-on, and even the camera managed to keep up with the quick-paced action.
It will likely still feel awkward to the mouse-and-keyboard crowd and gamepad jockeys—this isn't the end-all, be-all control scheme for shooters—but The Conduit has definitely hit the sweet spot for shooter gaming on the Wii.
If you don't like the default controls, you can always customise to your alien-thwarting heart's content.
One of the title's more innovative features is its almost stubborn insistence on meeting every single player's style and preference in terms of personalizing the controls.
You can map pretty much whatever action you want wherever you like; not just the obvious stuff like moving and firing, either, but even things like what motion you prefer to use when tossing grenades can be tuned.
This feature also extends to the HUD elements, which can be placed anywhere on the screen, and options such as look sensitivity and turning speed. Best of all, you needn't kick out to the main menu to tweak—it can all be done in-game.
The Conduit's bar-raising visuals, tight gameplay, conspiracy-riddled alien invasion yarn, and gamer-loving customisation options make it a real stand-out on the Wii's 2009 line-up.
Because of technical limitations, a Wii game will likely never match the jaw-dropping power of a PS3 or Xbox 360 shooter, but The Conduit comes as close as the hardware may ever get.
— Matt Cabral